Archive for March, 2011

Promise: God will work it for my good.

March 30, 2011

As I met with a cabinet member of the organization for which I work yesterday, the notion that every one wants to play for a winner; everyone wants to get a ring became a point of emphasis.  In life, we rarely hear anyone heralding the outcomes unfavorable and unfortunate circumstances.  No one wants to lose.  No one wants to go through hardships.  No one wants to deal with disappointment. How would our perspective change if we knew that the outcome, despite the pain in the journey? How would it change if we knew it would end up being beneficial for us? How would we respond if we knew it would be for our good?

For those who have entered into a personal relationship with God which comes only through Jesus Christ, you have that promise from the triune God for just that end.  Romans 8:28 says,

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” NIV
“And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” NASB
“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” NKJV
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” ESV

No matter how we slice it, the result is the same.  God has made a promise.  God will work [structure, orchestrate] those [difficult, hard, discomforting] things for the good of those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.  It is key to realize that the promise is for the one who has been called according to His [God’s] purpose.  Who calls?  God does! The call of God qualifies you to be included in His kingdom.  If He has called you, you come and serve the purpose for which you were called.  It means that you will have to endure hardships.  Just as Paul conveyed to Timothy, we are called to “suffer hardship with me, as a good soldier of Christ Jesus.”

Likewise, Christ hardships (his incarnation, his betrayal, his death, his descent) were used by God for our good.  If Christ had to endure hardships that were used by God for our good, we should expect to have hardships which will be used by God for our good and the good of His kingdom.  After all, God has promised “that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”  As Numbers 23:19 tells us, God is not a liar nor does He fail to keep His promise.  God will work out our hardships for our good and for His glory.  Let us then try to revel in our hardship knowing how it will end. Picture the tape at the finish line not just the hill in which you are struggling to climb.

Promise: Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

March 29, 2011

As titled, that conditional promise is found in James 4:10. Again, there is a condition here to have access to the promise.  There is a causal relationship to the outcome promised in this verse.  To be lifted up or exalted, you have to humble yourself.  As we have previously discussed, the intent of the heart or motive has to be correct.  Otherwise, someone might misapply that promise. They may appear, to us, to have the right motive, but God deals with everyone according to all they do, since He knows their hearts (1 Kings 8:39).

When one truly humbles himself before the Lord, it is not possible for him to solely seek his own end first.  In biblical humility, each one is not first but last.  Jesus said, “So the last will be first, and the first will be last.” (Matthew 20:16).  No one can lift himself up.  This is contrary to a heresy that a friend shared with me last week.  He stated that some are teaching a concept called “bootstrapping” in the context of the creation of the world.  Just as none of us could pick ourselves us by our own boot straps, the world could not have created itself through its own vices. It was only God who created the world, and it is only God who is able to lift you up. According to the Word, God only lifts us up when we are humble ourselves before Him.  We know this to be true because Christ modeled it for us.  This is seen in Christ who “humbled Himself to the point of death—even the death of the cross” yet “God exalted Him” (Philippians 2:8-9).

If you want to be on top, you have to be willing to be on the bottom.  Today, we all will have the opportunity to assume a humble position and watch God lift us up.  Let us pray that we are willing humble ourselves. Remember, the conditional promise “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.”  Be blessed

God: Great in Keeping Promises

March 28, 2011

What is a promise.  Wikipedia defines promise as a commitment by someone to do or not do something.  Dictionary.com defines promise as a declaration that something will or will not be done, given.  In this sense, a promise is only as good as the one who makes the claim.  Promise is one of the most widely desired and understood words; however, it is a word that none of us has a perfect record.  We make promises all the time, but we fail to keep our promise to do what we stated we would do.  Look at these quotes about how people see promises.

Promises are like babies:  easy to make, hard to deliver.  ~Author Unknown
Promises are the uniquely human way of ordering the future, making it predictable and reliable to the extent that this is humanly possible.  ~Hannah Arendt
Half the promises people say were never kept, were never made.  ~Edgar Watson Howe
We promise according to our hopes, and perform according to our fears.  ~Francois duc de la Rochefoucauld
Oaths are but words, and words but wind.  ~Samuel Butler
To promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing.  ~Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, 1876
It is not the oath that makes us believe the man, but the man the oath.  ~Aeschylus
The best way to keep one’s word is not to give it.  ~Napoleon Bonaparte
When a man takes an oath… he’s holding his own self in his own hands.  Like water.  And if he opens his fingers then – he needn’t hope to find himself again.  ~Robert Bolt
Never take a solemn oath.  People think you mean it.  ~Norman Douglas

In Numbers 23:19, God contrasts Himself to man in regards to keeping promises.  Let’s see what Numbers 23:19 says: God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill? Man is human; God isn’t.  Man lies; God doesn’t.  Man changes; God doesn’t.  Man speaks but does do what he said.  Man promises but does not fulfill his promise.  God acts on what He has said.  God fulfills every one of His promises.  One of the most used words for promise in the Old Testament is dabar. It is to speak, declare, converse, command, promise, warn, threaten, sing. There is another word very similar to it as well.  You can see it on the link for debar.  In the New Testament, the words for promise are the following: Strongs 1860epaggelia, 1861 epaggellomai, 1862 epaggelma.

It is clear in scripture that God keeps His promises.  It is also clear that man fails to consistently keep his promises. We intend to in many instances, but we just fail to deliver.  It is so comforting to know that God delivers on every promise He has made.  When we doubt that, it is in instances where we have superimposed a promise of God in a wrong way or we misinterpret the circumstance.  Take 1 John 3:22 “whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.” (NAS).  Some one will claim that they asked God something, and He did not give it to them.  The Word is clear on the conditions of the promise.  Look in the chapter, first, the person must belong to God or have committed his life to God.  Next, the person must be one who is keeping the commandments and living pleasing in His sight. Who among us can really make that claim?  Our best effort is useless. That is why we need to ask in the name of Jesus.  There are some promises that God makes the determination on the condition; however, there are others like James 1:5 where if we just belong to Him, we are guaranteed to become wiser if we ask for wisdom.

God keeps His promises.  We will take the next week looking at promises by God.  Please join me.

God: Great in trouble

March 26, 2011

Yesterday, we saw that God was Great Over Nature. I am sure that it was comforting for the disciples when Jesus demonstrated His power over the storm/waves.  Similarly, we all experience the comfort of God when we see Him act in our hardships.  When trouble befall us, we seek to escape the trouble.  In some instances, God will allow us to escape that trouble resulting in our relief; however, there are times when trouble continues to plague us with no end in sight.  During those times, we must realize that God has not abandoned us leaving us to fend for ourselves.  Remember, He has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

In Psalm 18, David is the example of God not pulling one out of trouble but remaining with him in that trouble.  In that chapter, we see many declarative statements of the greatness of God.  Below are the first two verses of this chapter.  Listen and be encouraged by the greatness attributed to God by the psalmist, David, who wrote about God’s intervention when he was being pursued by King Saul.

1 I love you, LORD, my strength.
2 The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer;
my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.

It was the strength of God that kept David going while being pursued.  The LORD is David’s rock (the God on whom he stands firm), fortress (the God who protects), and deliverer (the God who assists and saves).  God is our stronghold.  When God does not give us the quick escape in trouble, the rock and fortress qualities of God’s greatness is what we have to hold onto.  It is those qualities that we must hitch our faith to in order to remain confident.  What trouble are you in now?  Remember that God is your firm foundation in which you can stand.  Additionally, as you are standing, He is your protection.  He will surround you and keep you from harm, and if He does not, He has promised you eternal life should you lose your life.  Losing limbs or any other loved aspect of your life or person is important but inconsequential in terms of your eternal inheritance.  God is great in trouble.  If you are not in trouble, just hold on.  He will allow it to come into your life.  Then, remember.

If you really want some good reading that will depict how God intervenes in the natural fluctuations of trouble in our lives from big victories/escapes to extended periods of time of God being our rock, fortress and deliverer, look at the scenes from David’s life.

God: Great over nature

March 25, 2011

A few days ago, I asked How Great is our God.  As you know, we cannot truly capture how great God is; however, I have attempted to share a few verses that peer into the greatness of Jehovah.  Today, I will turn to Mark 4 to give us another glimpse into the greatness of God.

By now, we all have heard and seen damage the damage in Japan created by the tsunami.  They had built some walls designed to dissipate the waves and to somewhat neutralize the damage of the waves.  Those enormous concrete barriers were crushed and broken into pieces by the force of the waves from the tsunami.  Man’s attempt to contain nature failed greatly.  Conversely, man has access to a means to contain nature.  You may be aware of the widely known text where Jesus says to the waves “Peace, be still“, and they were stilled.  In that example, Jesus showed His authority over nature.  A few years ago, the state of Georgia had experienced extreme drought conditions.  Desires, hopes and wishes for rain went unfulfilled as major lakes in the northern part of Georgia dropped to record low levels.  The governor, Sonny Perdue, at the time held a press conference where he openly prayed to Jehovah for rain.  While many dismissed this as nothing more than a political ploy, we must look at the results.  Not long after that, it rained.  There were months which typically receive little rain registered record-levels rain.  In fact, there were floods in Atlanta in 2009 (thanks Joe for the correct year).  Clearly, God has shown His rule and reign over nature after all He is the creator.

Read what Job tells us about God’s rule over nature in chapter 37.  Again, below are a few verses that attempts to capture God’s greatness.

The breath of God produces ice,
and the broad waters become frozen.
11 He loads the clouds with moisture;
he scatters his lightning through them.
12 At his direction they swirl around
over the face of the whole earth
to do whatever he commands them.
13 He brings the clouds to punish people,
or to water his earth and show his love.

Whether Old or New Testaments, the truth is the same.  God is great.  We see it in so many ways.  We just looked at nature today.  Tomorrow, we will look at God’s greatness in trouble.  Be blessed.

God: Great enough to keep His Word even when we abandon Him by not trusting and obeying in Him

March 24, 2011

In Deuteronomy 10, we see the answer to a pray.  What’s amazing is that this follows one of the greatest examples of Israel’s apostasy.  In Deuteronomy 9, Moses had gone up the mountain to meet with God.  As you recall, he was gone 40 days, and the people got impatient loosing faith.  They did not trust what God had told them through Moses nor in what God had done in bringing them out of Egypt.  As such, they revolted and made a golden calf as their God even under the leadership of Aaron.  That’s a whole different post.  God told Moses “Go down from here at once, because your people whom you brought out of Egypt have become corrupt. They have turned away quickly from what I commanded them and have made an idol for themselves.”

God was so disgusted with the people who He said, “I have seen this people, and they are a stiff-necked people indeed! 14 Let me alone, so that I may destroy them and blot out their name from under heaven. And I will make you into a nation stronger and more numerous than they.” Despite that intense disdain for how His people had responded to Him in unfaithfulness, God did not abandon them as He responded to Moses’ prayer for Him to remember that His promise to Abraham.  The promise to make Abraham into a great nation from which the Savior who would reign forever would come.

As a consequence of God being faithful to Himself, God relented from His righteous anger which aroused Him enough to consider destroying Israel and Aaron.  In chapter 10, we see the aftermath and God’s response to Moses.  God had Moses to cut out new stone tablets for the 10 Commandments.  After being saved from God’s wrath and the rewriting of the commandments, God had Moses to tell the people:

“16 Circumcise your hearts, therefore, and do not be stiff-necked any longer. 17 For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. 18 He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. 19 And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. 20 Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name.”

You may have found yourself away from the LORD because of your stiff-neckness or disobedience that springs from a lack of faith.  God is calling any of us in this position to circumcise our hearts which is to commit our hearts to Him alone where we trust solely in Him and not ourselves or anything else.  God keeps His promise.  He is asking you to keep your promise to stay true to Him.

 

How Great is Our God

March 23, 2011

As I started out this morning, I had planned to write something different; however, as I started reading Psalm 104, it took me to a song, How Great is our God, by Chris Tomlin.  O Worship the King is another song that surfaced as I began contemplating the greatness of God.

In reading Psalm 104, I am just captivated by the rule and reign of God in and over creation.  This Psalm talks about God’s hand in forming the earth, providing places for his creatures, providing food for them as well as the majesty of what He created. There God is given His proper credit of creating the earth.  The seasons are marked by the moon.  It was God who causes the sun to rise and fall along with the associated activities during those times for various creatures.  The vastness of God in this psalm is not discernible. God gives it to us as a taste of His greatness.  Even the word great is inept.  Great here is the word m@`od. It means exceedingly, much.

Exceedingly conveys that is beyond a lot.  We see that in Psalm 104, but what about your life. How have you seen the greatness of God in your life?  It is something that I would love for you to entertain.  I would even love to hear from you about it.  Many times, what I write about is about me.  Give me a glimpse of what God is doing in your life.  I just know that God is exceedingly much.  Be blessed today as you see How Great is Our God.

Why people get cut off by God

March 22, 2011

The term ‘cut off’ is a widely used term that has several meanings. For example, it’s the basis of a television show on VH1 where typically pampered women are assembled in a home away from their luxurious life style. It also described what happened to many (me) people during the Atlanta floods in September of 2009.  They could not get home because the water had engulfed the roads.  I hear the term a lot in school as warring adolescents describe how they will respond to a friend who is no longer allowed to participate in their group.  They essentially are shunned.  More importantly, it describes what happens to people who fail to believe in God’s one and only son, Jesus.

Our text today conveys succinctly that truth to us. Romans 11:22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.” NKJV  This is a classic literary strategy to teach.  We are asked to think about the two positions.  We are asked to compare and contrast God’s goodness and severity. His kindness and his roughness if you will.  In this text, Paul was addressing the Gentile believers who were some what pompous in thinking that they were better than the Jews since salvation had come to the Gentiles after the Jews rejection of Jesus as Savior, Messiah.  This is a deep theological matter that I will not present as a very simple matter; however, I will say what Paul said.

There are two types of people: those who get included and continue in Christ and those who do not.  Those who fail to believe in or trust in Christ for salvation will be cut off.  They will be shunned by God when judgement comes.  Additionally, they are not able to experience the richness of an intimate relationship with God where the Spirit indwells man and where the answer is “Yes” to the promises of God.  Contrary to what people tout, God is not some bold figure who is picking people off because they fail to believe.  He has been and is gracious in affording time for people to respond to all His efforts to have them place their trust in Him.

Romans 11:22 can be seen in John 15:1-8.  Again, we are told that “He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful.”  Why do people get cut off by God?  They get cut off because they fail to believe in His one and only Son, Jesus.  John 3:18 tells us “Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”  If you don’t want to be cut off, believe!

Saved to Pray

March 21, 2011

Okay guys, you have not heard from me the last two days.  I will not manufacture anything just to post.  I genuinely try to listen to the Lord before writing and posting anything.  Yesterday in church, Pastor Benson spoke on prayer.  He began his sermon with a question “How is your prayer life?”.  He followed that question with a statement that came after the hush in the congregation. He talked about that people usually are quiet when prayer is mentioned because we do such a poor job.  I agree.  I had been struggling to pray consistently for a friend who is pregnant now after miscarrying last year; for a coworker who is battling cancer; for family members who don’t know Christ; for my family as we battle facing our fears; for my students and coworkers to have a better work environment, and so forth.

We have been directed to pray. Below is an altered excerpt of what I emailed to Pastor Benson about how his message on prayer complimented what God had done and spoken to me about during the week.

Your message was timely.  It coincided with some things the Lord said to me last week.  There was a little of it in the posts, but the main part happened last Tuesday.  I awoke in pain in both knees and hips from arthritis due to the rain.  The Lord told me to get up as I had decided that I was going to remain in the bed.  He told me to get up again.  I asked Him why He wanted me to get up.  He said nothing at that time.  I got up. Later as I was getting ready, He said that you have been praying that I lead you to and open your eyes to the ‘good work prepared in advance for you’.  Well, I just continued to get ready for work.  This is also the prayer day with Thomas and Huey.  I was late for that too.  The day started.  I stood on duty near the front door as I normally do.  Then it happened; a student walked through the door with two ladies following him as one exclaimed I want him locked up, where is the officer.  The student turned to the woman with an air of aggression and began engaging them verbally.  I intervened guiding them to the office.  As I got into the office, I realized that the lady who was continually stating that she wanted the boy arrested was his mother.  The other woman was his aunt.  They had already called the local police on him as they said for not wanting to come to school.  The boy claimed that he was up and brushing his teeth, so how could they say he did not want to come to school.  The boy was upset that his mother had not responded to his text the night before.  He asserted that she did not get home until well past two a.m. All this led to a big blow up.  The parent eventually told the boy “I don’t want you.  I am going downtown to get that unruly [petition], so you can get out.” The boy retorted, “so, I don’t care; you ruined my life.”
As I shared my life struggle with my mom and how Christ was the answer, the Spirit of God whispered “this is the good work.”  Later that day as I was going to complete a teacher observation, the sixth grader students were walking to Connections, the Spirit said, “look at that girl”.  I saw her and asked if she was okay.  She said yes, but she really looked troubled.  I should have prayed, but I did not.  About 12 minutes later, I got a call in my office, there was a student who had stated that she wanted to kill herself because of some taunts over her lupus from a group of her peers. The counselors usually handle things of this nature, but one was out and the other could not be found at that moment.  I was given the student’s name.  I called her to my office.  Lo and behold, who was it? It was the girl the Spirit had just said,”look at that girl”.  I began to tell her that God had told me to look at her and prompted me to ask her if anything was wrong. I told her that God saw her plight and sent me to speak to her.  As I did, the Spirit whispered again to me, “now, this is the good work.”
I had questioned God as to why He wanted me to go to work in all that pain. God answered in a resounding because there was good work prepared in advanced for you.  I can’t say that either of those students accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior, but that was not the point.  The point was that God answered my prayer to lead me to the good work prepared in advanced for me to do.  I just did not expect it because I was looking at my own circumstances that screamed for me to be selfish not selfless.  God had led me to fulfill what He called me to do.  I had prayed for that which did not appeal to me naturally but that which the Word has designated for me to do.  In the post, Saved to Seek, God made that point exactly.  He saved me to seek Him and to participate in building His kingdom.  I just need to ASK with the proper motives and my prayer would be answered.  As with many things, God had already given the response before I answered.  As the week ensued, I had asked the Lord to lead me to and open my eyes to His good work prepared in advanced for me to do.
As you talked about the how and the what of prayer yesterday, that’s God reminded me about.  He told me just pray the Word and I will do my good work in you and through you. As such, I used biblegateway.com to search for the word prayer.  I am looking for how God says we are to pray in that verse(s) and what we are to pray for in that verse(s). Here is the link to the verses in the New Testament that contain pray as a root.  In the NIV, there were 165 references to pray.

Saved to Seek

March 18, 2011

In Saved to Rebuild, I attempted to compare my sadness over my people with Nehemiah’s sadness over his people.  In Nehemiah 2, we see Nehemiah seeking support for his desire to do something about the plight and condition of his people.  The message from Nehemiah 2 is that God expects us to seek for support in achieving the work for the Kingdom of God.  While Nehemiah was living as a servant as a consequence of his people being conquered, God had placed him in a favorable position.  In case we didn’t know it, God places us in favorable conditions despite how unpleasant they may seem.  It is our responsibility to seek assistance to achieve what God has called us to do.

Nehemiah was the cupbearer to the king of Persia.  God positioned him to have access to the king on a daily basis.  By having to test the kings drink, Nehemiah faced daily threats of his life if someone was attempting to kill the king through his drink.  After Nehemiah 1 where he was hurt over the condition of his people, Nehemiah was still discouraged, but like us, he had to go to work regardless of what was happening in his personal life.  Persian kings were known to be ruthless.  Like most kings, they required their subjects to show respect and certainly not come before them like there was something wrong. Let’s peer into the scene from Nehemiah 2

“I took the wine and gave it to the king. I had not been sad in his presence before, 2 so the king asked me, “Why does your face look so sad when you are not ill? This can be nothing but sadness of heart.” I was very much afraid,”

We can see from that writing that people were not to enter into the king’s presence expressing or demonstrating any negative or unhappy emotions.  Back then, that normally carried a capital consequence.  People were killed for such things which is why Nehemiah stated that he was very much afraid.  The brother did not want to die for looking as expected.  Even as Nehemiah experienced fear, God had given him favor.  The king would not have asked what was wrong if he had been displeased by Nehemiah’s disposition.  God positions us.  God protects us.  Now let’s see what happened next.

The king said to me, “What is it you want?” Then I prayed to the God of heaven, 5 and I answered the king, “If it pleases the king and if your servant has found favor in his sight, let him send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so that I can rebuild it.”

When our thoughts, attitudes and motives are in concert with God’s purposes, we can ASK for what we want and God will grant it to us because it is God’s purpose that we want to serve not our own.  Nehemiah was asked by the man who could equip and empower him with what he needed to complete the work that God gave him to do.  What work has God given you to do?  Who has God placed in your horizon to seek as a resource to carry out that work?  Nehemiah, when asked “What is it you want?”, prayed to the God of heaven, Jehovah.  I am sure that Nehemiah had already contemplated what he wanted, but I suspect it was a quick prayer to say God, thank you for giving me the opportunity to ask for what I had been talking to you about.  I am not sure, but I know he prayed to the God of heaven.  When asked what it is that we need, we need to be ready.  Nehemiah told the king explicitly yet respectfully what he would like for the king to do.

Again, all that Nehemiah asked for was for the work of God.  Examine what we are petitioning God about.  Is it about the work of God?  Clearly, I am not saying that God does not expect us to ask for our needs or wants, but I am saying God says He places a priority, premium and promise on the request when it is consistent with His purposes – which is to build His kingdom.  In doing so, He will be glorified, and we will enjoy Him through that process. To reiterate, God positions, God protects and God provides.  Seek Him for your position, protection and provision as you seek to fulfill your purpose in Christ.